SOME of the men and women who beg in Bournemouth town centre 'get into their cars at the end of the day', a top businessman has said.

Tony Brown, the chief executive of Beales, voiced his concern about aggressive begging at a Daily Echo-backed breakfast meeting on the future of the high street last week.

During the event, traders said footfall in Bournemouth is up – but shoppers are being put off by rough sleeping, antisocial behaviour and aggressive begging.

“When you walked through the Christmas Tree Wonderland there are eight, 10, 12 beggars," Mr Brown said.

“I’m not unsympathetic but unless we start applying the legislation that allows us to clear the place we will never stop the problem.”

He argued members of the public need to stop giving homeless people cash.

“The council officials, the rangers, they know the individuals. I know the individuals because they come into our stores," he said.

"We see them getting into cars after the end of the day’s begging. If we target those people and help the ones who are desperate for help, then maybe we’ll get somewhere.”

As reported in the Echo, rough sleepers have recently set up camps in the doorways of Marks and Spencer and Jones Bootmaker. In December, homeless man Carl Lancelot, 42, died on the streets of Bournemouth.

Town centre councillor David Smith said there are some rough sleepers who do not want the support of the council and other agencies.

“There are people out there who refuse to be helped. They set up camp by doorways, they’ve been offered all the help under the sun," he said.

"Is it right that we should put up with encampments outside Debenhams with people refusing help?”

He argued there is a "need" to balance the rights of different groups.

“I think if you’re going to get a balance, all these people trying to trade well in the town centre have got to have rights too. They need a good environment where they can trade well," he said.

Dorset PCSOs are being given new powers to move on rough sleepers, it was heard at the meeting. Previously, the section 35 dispersal orders were only used by uniformed police officers.

Speaking separately, one Big Issue seller, who asked not to be named, told a Daily Echo reporter that "almost all" of the people he had seen begging in Bournemouth town centre are not rough sleepers.

The seller gave his comments last week, saying he had noticed that the people begging would arrive mid-morning and leave in the early evening.

"From what I've seen they have places to go to, unlike the people who are sleeping rough," he said.

He urged people not to give money to those begging as "it enables them to support any drug or drink habits".

Last week, Cllr David Kelsey, who represents East Cliff and Springbourne and is vice chair of the council's licensing board, threatened a Tesco store with a licence review unless it takes action to stop aggressive beggars.

Customers of Tesco Express in Holdenhurst Road, Springbourne have reported being approached while using the store's cashpoint.